It stands to reason that the best theater colleges have the most beautiful college theaters. For a university to spend energy and resources on creating and maintaining a beautiful college theater, there must be something there to see. Some of the best theater colleges in the United States include Carnegie Mellon and Brown University, both of which have theaters on this list. For many of the schools, the auditorium or opera house that serves their university drama or theater department is also a community space. In fact, many of these structures would not be standing if not for the generosity of alumni of the college. Pro tip: good names for auditoriums and performance centers include the name of the university itself or the names of million-dollar donors.
Ranking the Most Beautiful College Theaters
For a ranking about beauty to be correct, is impossible. College Consensus editors compiled these beautiful college theaters ranking by looking around at the top theater colleges, and the spaces they perform their craft. Some of the beauty in these theaters include the many options of performance art spaces the offer. Part of the challenge for universities to that make decisions about what kind of spaces to build or maintain is the amount different uses it fulfills. Many schools get around this by building performance art centers, with different spaces available. Since so many resources go into buildings that are this multifunctional, many of these schools are large and well-funded.
Colleges and universities represented here are ranked in the order of their Consensus Score. For more information about College Consensus’ methodology, check out the About page.
Kresge Auditorium at MIT
The Kresge Auditorium on MIT’s campus was designed alongside the MIT Chapel. It is one of the famous theaters in America, but along with the chapel is known for being one of the best and most renowned collections of Mid Century Modern Art. The two buildings are divided by a green, which is called the “Kresge Oval.” The green was created with the intention of being a site for civic events. The Auditorium itself is the home to a concert hall that can accommodate over 1200 people and a small theater that seats 204. One of the things that make its structure so spectacular is the sheer glass curtain walls. The building was complete in 1955, and named for the benefactor Sebastian K. Kresge.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the world’s leading hubs for creation, innovation, and technology. As a university, it is famous for producing some of the most critical people and products associated with advancing the technological age. From the transistor radio to nuclear fission, MIT grads have invented or developed the building blocks to continued advancement in this climate of all things tech. It is also one of the top musical theater colleges.
Yale Repertory Theater at Yale University
Situated at the edge of the elite campus of Yale University and downtown New Haven, Connecticut, the prominent Yale Repertory Theater resides proudly and invitingly. It lives within the former Calvary Baptist Church Building that boasts a distinct architectural style of Gothic Revival. The building was installed in 1846 on the land that once belonged to the local historical celebrity Richard Platt, who was one of the founders of the town of New Haven. The theater is known for hosting famous actors and authors, including Christopher Durang, a playwright known for absurdist comedy. It is often used a testing ground for new works that may or may not transcend to larger more commercial theaters.
Yale University has a reputation that precedes itself since 1701. Consistently considered one of the top universities in the country, Yale is known for making a significant impact in the arts and sciences on an international level. With innovative theory and practice that has come from Yale researchers, exceptional students choose Yale to have access to resources that make them stand out in their field.
The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University
The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown was a trailblazer for green building on Brown’s campus. Part of what makes it one of the worlds most beautiful theaters is a roof that was designed to be self-sustaining, with green building practices, to be used for stormwater management. It has two distinct roof surfaces, and within the comprehensive dual media system is perennial pockets and within the structurally sound building that can withstand winds up to 110 MPH, to accommodate being in a hurricane zone. The theater is near achieving LEED Gold Certification. Amidst technical innovation, it is the home to creative innovation as well. This could be called the campus epicenter for creative and artistic exploration on campus.
Brown University was founded 1764 and is a member of the 12-school Ivy League. It was the first university established in Rhode Island, located in Providence, the state capital city. Brown was the seventh school founded in the United States, before the American Revolution that made the U.S. a country. The beautiful college theater at Brown is home to one of the best academic theater programs as well. Both the theater and the playwriting programs at Brown are regarded highly for their graduate performance record. Brown theater grads put in the work at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts to earn or be nominated for nearly twenty Tony Awards over the years.
Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts at Cornell University
Cornell University is the home to the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, which has proven to be a cultural resource for the region. They host over 20,000 visitors per year who participate in their programming as performers and audience members. One of the things that makes the structure unique is the walls. They are made of marble that was designed to support a unique style of performance and teaching spaces for dance, theater, performance, rehearsal, music, lighting design, among other artistic practices. This center is the home to four different theaters, a film forum, a ballet studio, and two temporary classrooms. The Kiplinger Theater is the largest of the four theaters, offering seating for up to 471 patrons. The 75 seat Black Box Theater is the smallest and can be transformed vastly to accommodate many different types of stage designs and configurations.
Cornell itself is a located upstate from one of the cultural epicenters of the country, New York. Having access to some of the most famous theaters in New York City means more inspiration to exquisite performance. In the more than 150 years it has been in existence, Cornell has been a leader in offering liberal arts and technical science education. It is also one of the go-to performing arts colleges in New York The Veterinary School at Cornell is considered the best country and was founded in 1894.
Marjorie Walther Goodhart Theater at Bryn Mawr College
The Marjorie Walter Goodhart Theater was made famous right after it opened its doors as the soon to be famous Katharine Hepburn walked across the stage to receive her Bryn Mawr College diploma. Initially, this large theater was created to be more of an assembly space rather than a theater for performance, and it was made to fit the entire student body of this prestigious school. As the institution grew the needs for space had to be revisioned. In this process, $19 million was put into the structure to make it a campus teaching theater and performance space that would be loved even beyond the campus community. It is considered one of the most beautiful venues in the region and supports the work of both famous and less known performers.
Like many of the old theaters on this list, the Goodhart Theater was built to resemble a Cathedral style, and the acoustics of the space mimic those as well. Goodhart Hall is significant as a major public work of the firm of Mellor & Meigs. They were best known at the turn of the 20th century as a Philadelphia-based architecture firm, specializing in Neo-Norman style residential buildings. These include New England mansions, elite university fraternities, and other grand designs.
The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame
The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame, also known by its acronym DPAC, is new as compared to its home institution. In 2004 they had their ribbon cutting and were immediately an institution of cultural significance even beyond the campus community. This beautiful college theater is the university’s hub for artistic collaboration and programming and has commissioned over 40 contemporary works cross-genre. This center also acts as an academic space that focuses on teaching and performance practice, as well as film and media arts. As far as the community goes, they open their doors to over 100,000 visitors each year, which include young people engaging in artistic and educational endeavors.
One of the most potent aspects of this space is that it brings a variety of community residents and students together to participate in the arts. The building includes five venues for performance, 177 rooms, and 84 different vibrant paint colors. The Judd and Mary Lou Leighton Concert Hall is a classical image of one of the worlds most beautiful theaters. It seats 840 and is near 10-stories high. The Patricia George Decio Theater features a prominent proscenium arch creating an atmosphere that for performance that is celebrated as one of the most beautiful college theaters.
Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center at Northwestern University
The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern has the colloquial honor of also being called the Theater & Interpretation Center. Northwestern’s School of Communication operates it with the intention of providing all aspects of programming for the performing arts on campus including administrative duties. This comprehensive center was constructed in 1980 and is the home to four different performance venues. The Ethel M Barber Theater, which has 439 seats, and is most commonly used for dance and theater classes and performances, as well as the school of communications administrative tasks. The 288-seat Josephine Louis Theater was renovated in 2015 to become fully accessible to Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
Northwestern students often call the performance complex “the box library” due to its boxy shape and proximity to the campus library. Its outside walls of the building are a stark white inviting patrons to see the colors that space creates. The other venues in the complex include the 100-seat Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater and the 100-seat Mussetter-Struble Theater.
The Gillings Center For Dramatic Art at UNC Chapel Hill
The Joan H. Gillings Center for Dramatic Art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a multi-purpose building that was renovated in 1998. It was an expansion of 1976 built Paul Green Theater. Conceived initially to hold a variety of sites for the performing arts, this space is home to the Playmakers Repertory Company. The space is home to five different studio classrooms for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Dramatic Arts programming, as well as two theaters. Other resources this building is known for are a rehearsal hall, costume shops, admin offices, among other resources to serve the campus and community. In 2017, Playmakers moved their administrative offices into the Center for Dramatic Art.
The Paul Green Theater is also home to many local professional actors, playwrights, directors, and others. The sister space to the Green Theater, the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theater, is a 265-seat, flexible space theater. It is technically considered a black box theater but is more extensive than many others that fit this bill.
Schwartz Center at Emory University
The Schwartz Center for Performing Arts is a multi-use space that features four main facilities. These four are the Cherry Logan Emerson Concert Hall, the Theater Lab, The Dance Studio, and the Chace Gallery. Tasked with housing both learning and performance, the Schwartz Center is a place on Emory’s Campus that holds some of the most artistic accomplishments of the students there. The center opened in 2003, and since then Emory has had a space to re-dedicate itself to the arts. One of the most beautiful aspects of the complex is the Emerson Concert Hall. The hall seats 800 and offers spectators an orchestra pit and a choral balcony. The acoustics in the space was the most important thing on the minds of architect Michael Dennis. Perhaps the most impressive part of the space is the Werner Wortsman Organ that weighs an astounding 14-tons.
The hall was named after the scientist Cherry Logan Emerson who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory in the 1930s. Emerson was from Atlanta, a chemist turned philanthropist, and funded the project that built the beautiful college theater that bears his name today. The theater houses a 14-ton Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ made by top North American builder Daniel Jaeckel, which was installed in 2005.
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University
One of the most famous theaters in New York is connected to New York University. Called the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, this beautiful college theater calls out to unconventional audiences. Most of the performances at the Skirball Center intend to bring experimentation and adventure and Avante Garde to lovers of the cutting edge. The building of this cultural epicenter was completed in 2003, and it was named after the famous philanthropist Jack H. Skirball. The cost of this massive project was nearly $20 million. They not only host theatrical productions, but many famous speeches have also taken place within these walls by prominent figures like John Kerry, Justin Trudeau, and Al Gore. Many film broadcasts are brought to life in this beautiful theater space. The elements of the academic, scientific, cultural, and political are brought together to serve the NYU community and beyond.
Within the Skirball Center is the Eisner and Lubin Auditorium. Unlike many beautiful college theaters, this auditorium has a flat-floor, making it a more flexible performance space. It can also accommodate film presentations and lecture series, act as a concert venue, and support other programming for students
The Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University
The Wharton Center for Performing Arts at Michigan State University was initially called the State Center for Performing Arts. The Cobb Great Hall stage is the main theater venue of the Center, and it made its debut concert in 1982. Before the Wharton Center construction, MSU performance space was 1932 and in attendance were many movers and shakers, including first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Other venues in the Center include the Pasant Theater which seats 585. Architects and engineers from the Southfield, MI-based firm Harley Ellington Pierce Yee teamed up with Caudill Rowlett Scott design architects based in Houston, Texas to design the Wharton Center. The building features a 5-story entirely glass facade, with several theater stages housed therein.
The Center was named for Clifton and Dolores Wharton, the president and first lady of Michigan State in 1970-78. As the first black president of the college, Dr. Wharton and his wife were patrons of the arts, both on campus and in local East Lansing, Michigan. They knew that a part of his legacy as president should be focused on the arts, and improving the university’s ability to host with a beautiful college theater. After raising a large portion of the $11 million building budget, the board of trustees voted to name the center after the couple. He built quite a legacy indeed.
Philip Chosky Theater at Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is the home to multiple theaters within the Carnegie Mellon University Theater. One of the beautiful college theaters at CMU is called the Philip Chosky Theater, and the building itself was a gift from philanthropist Philip Chosky. This is the largest theatrical space run by the school of drama, and it holds as many as 450 people. They Helen Wayne Rauh Theater is primarily a classroom space, and it also is used as a theater that seats 150 people. It is a flexible black box space that holds many university and community performances. There is a video studio also in the mix that was given to Carnegie Mellon by John Wells, hence the name the John Wells Video Studio.
Carnegie Mellon is a Conservatory training school, meaning the arts that students focus on there are much more performance and technical in focus. Liberal Arts schools by comparison that offer theater arts or dance, for example, expect much more in the way of performance theory. CMU School of Drama is, in fact, the oldest conservatory training program in the U.S. and was the first to be allowed to offer degrees in drama. If the walls of the Philip Chosky Theater could talk.
Purdue Theater and Elliott Hall of Music at Purdue University
When thinking grand and beautiful college theaters, the Purdue Theater and Elliott Hall of Music is one of the famous theaters in America not only because of its structure but because of the magnitude of their programming. They produce over 1,000 works each year. Many of there at home productions premier at Purdue and then hit the road. Not only do they have music events, but also a variety of speakers and educational lectures, as well as graduations and other like events. This complex also houses the Loeb Playhouse, Slayer Center, and Eliza Fowler Hall. The entire center is used as a site of learning for students and is utilized for production support.
Purdue is committed to the partnerships with production companies and facilities across the country that keep it stable. The Elliot Music Hall and Music Hall productions do this by growing the connection the university has with the private sector, as well as allows for networking of theater arts and theater tech students. The same architects and designers who are famous for constructing one of the most famous theaters in New York, Radio City Music Hall. The hall’s designers got assistance by consulting architect J. Andre Fouilhoux (who was also one of the architects for New York’s Radio City Music Hall) and was primarily overseen by Walter Scholer. It features. It seats more than 6000 people, making it the largest capacity theater in the world, that is in the proscenium style.
Curtis M. Phillips Center at the University of Florida
It is not obvious from the outside that the University of Florida is a performing arts colleges in Florida, but it is growing that reputation. At the University of Florida in Gainesville, the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is a beautiful college theater. Other gorgeous buildings on campus include the Baughman Center, a coveted small glass chapel, and the lovely University Auditorium. The school is home to a growing musical theater community of students who add to the rich cultural life on the campus. It also features big acts from around the globe. In terms of the structures, the Phillips Center has a proscenium hall with 1,700 seats, and a 200 seat black box theater called Squitieri Studio Theater. They first opened their doors in 1992 with the theater’s debut performance of CATS. The building is a large, grandiose white structure with a giant fountain in front; its beauty transcends the building itself with local foliage and palm trees that give the structure its signature. It is known for being an iconic cultural hub where performers like Yo-Yo Ma, Stomp, Riverdance, and David Sedaris have each graced the stage.
The Phillips Center for the Performing Arts has it all and offers patrons the experience of a Broadway show, lecture or political talk, or a small university arts performance. In 2006, Martin Fackler and Shelley Melvin, local philanthropists and patrons of the arts, donated $750,000 to UF to help fund a renovation project. The project enclosed the two existing terraces on the building, creating an even more massive and beautiful college theater experience. Brian Jose is the University of Florida Performing Arts Director.
The Brooks Center at Clemson University
Clemson University has a lot to be proud of, but one of the crowning jewels on campus is the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts. This beautiful college theater has many offerings that not only support the theater department but also transcend into the community and the greater campus population. Throughout the school year, they offer music performances, dance, theater shows, as well as other artistic events that experiment with form. This brick structure was completed in 1994, and they have since been a beacon of culture for the community. The entire building is 87,000 square feet. There are a few spaces within the building including a proscenium auditorium with 979 seats, and a black box theater with 100 seats.
Breaking ground on the Brooks center in 1994, Clemson reignited its commitment to the arts. It is a 90,000 square foot building that was named for Robert Howell Brooks. He made a $2.5 million gift that established the land and construction of the massive performance center.
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater at the Eastman School of Music, at the University of Rochester
Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater at the Eastman School of Music, at the University of Rochester is a large and beautiful space. Although it is not in the Big Apple, it is still known as one of the famous theaters in New York. It was designed to accommodate larger ensembles including large orchestras. It is on the campus of the University of Rochester, which is located in the downtown section of Rochester, New York. Its placement makes it accessible to the community. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra uses Kodak Hall as their performance home base. George Eastman was the founder of the theatre, and in 1922 he established the venue to provide a space to house music, silent film, dance, and orchestral performance.
In the nearly 100 years of operation, the Kodak Hall has seen performances by the world’s most famous musicians, conductors, speakers, playwrights, and opera performances. With its grand structural appearance, there is no denying that the Kodak Hall is one of University of Rochester’s most monumental buildings. In 2004 and 2009 the hall was given much needed historically-sensitive renovations. Since then, the opportunities for technological innovation that connects the old world of performance with the new world ranks the Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre one best stage theatres in America.
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College
The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts is a majestic and vibrant center for cultural production and exchange at Bard College. They are a venue that has provided the Hudson Valley with both world-famous acts, as well as space for Bard students to explore their role in the performing arts. The Fisher Center has been used as an experimental space as well, for performers in all stages of production and career to practice sharing work. SummerScape, which is one of the most prominent performing arts festivals in the country takes place at the Fisher Center, as well as the Bard Music Festival, among other annual events that allow for rich cultural exchange in the space.
Frank Gehry designed the building and performance space. He is the same architect who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the world famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Fisher Center. At the cost of more than $62 million, construction on the 107,000 square foot space took three years. The center opened in April 2003, redefining Bard College’s commitment to the arts, and offering this beautiful college theater.
Cutler Majestic Theater at Emerson College
In Boston, Massachusetts you will find the beautiful Cutler Majestic which is the Emerson College Theater. Living up to its name, the theater itself is a historical site renovated by Emerson. It was established in 1903 in what is known as Beaux Arts Style. It was transformed to be able to accommodate vaudeville performance in the 1920s, and it then became a movie house in the 1950s. To commercially show cinema, the Cutler Theater required some of the original distinct architecture to be covered. Luckily, the distinct features of this beautiful college theater were not damaged in the process. Sadly, it was not until the 1980s when Emerson College bought the venue and poured all of the necessary resources to restore it to its initial appearance.
For 20 years, the Emerson college theater scene and the Boston performance arts community called on theater arts lovers near and far who had any connection to Emerson, to aid in the renovation of this incredible space. The cantilevered balconies were a technological innovation at the time it was built, and still, provide an unobstructed view of the stage from anywhere on the second floor. The Majestic was once called “the most beautiful playhouse Boston has yet seen.” It can be found on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Regent Theater Complex at Syracuse University
The Regent Theater Complex at Syracuse University is the home of the drama department as well as a hub for artistic performance and cultural exchange. This is a shared set of performance spaces not only used by the university, but by Syracuse Stage. There are many distinct venues within the complex that range in creating a cabaret-like atmosphere to an intimate loft-like space, as well as a proscenium theater with just under 500 seats, and another flexible space that can transform according to the needs of the performance. The Complex not only includes performance spaces but rehearsal studios, dance classrooms, as well as practice rooms, and even lecture halls for the university.
The Building was initially constructed in Syracuse in 1914 to open as The Regent Theater costing $100,000. The original owner was University Theaters, Inc., operated by Merton H. Schwartz, but later was purchased by the Kallet family, who remodeled it extensively in 1938. The University bought the land and massive brick building in 1958 for $58,000. In the mid-1970s the Syracuse Stage company productions made this beautiful college theater home.
The David and Louise Roselle Center for the Arts at the University of Delaware
The University of Delaware is the home of the David and Louise Roselle Center for the Arts which is a comprehensive hub of creative and concert venues as well as classrooms and educational facilities. This is pretty much one-stop shopping for the arts, as there is an intimate recital hall, a large orchestral hall where you may find a wedding or elegant affair, and the Thompson Theater has a 400 person capacity and is the stomping ground for the Delaware Resident Ensemble Players. Among the practice rooms, there are spaces to work with a variety of instruments as well as areas for movement. Another favorite spot is the flexible studio theater.
The architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross designed and planned construction for the Center for the Arts, which was completed in 2006. The acoustic consultant was the Kirkegaard Associates, who are known for such projects as University of Chicago Saieh Hall for Economics and the Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, Connecticut. Making the sounds as to justice to a beautiful college theater as Roselle Center for the Arts is the goal of the acoustician. Kirkegaard did just that and more for the University of Delaware.
Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota
The Rarig Center was designed in the genre of brutalist architecture which came out of the modern architecture movement. This particular architectural style was popular at the beginning of the 20th century. The grand structure of the Rarig Center was built in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood. The building was constructed in 1971 and is the home to four distinct theaters. There are two other theaters in this beautiful college theater complex including a theater in the round and a black box. These two types of venues are perfect for the different performances that use them, for the effect of the show, as well as for educational purposes. This structure is also the home of the radio station Radio K’s studios.
A 200 seat Kilburn Arena Theater in the round, hosts intimate student and community productions while the Whiting Proscenium Theater seats 420 guests, and is used for more presentational style performances and large cast performances. The Stoll Thrust Theater is the largest of the four spaces, seating 460 people, but somehow is also designed in a way to keep it intimate. The student-run Nolte Xperimental theater is the home to all things student-led. From student-written and directed works to student requested musical acts.
Mason Gross Performing Arts Center at Rutgers University
The Mason Gross Performing Arts Center is a performance art complex. The entire series of buildings include fourteen venues, all of which have a specialty concerning the type of performances they host well. The Center is most often used by Rutgers performing arts students and faculty for teaching and performance, as well as local event producers and community groups. Many of the venues are also available for the school to rent for conferences, community events, and some the local area’s well-known performance organizations including the American Repertory Ballet, the Crossroads Theater Company, and the George Street Playhouse. Other buildings operate as music venues, conference spaces, and mixed-use space for the university. The 450,000-square-foot footprint means that the sheer scope that the buildings offer allows for an art and performance experience that has changed the way New Jersey can celebrate and be entertained.
In 2018, the Nicholas Music Center underwent a bit of a facelift, replacing the traditional red theater seats for blue ones. The 23,000 square foot music venue and concert hall seats 704 and is ideal for concerts, lectures, and large meetings.
Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst
The Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts houses the FAC Concert Hall. This 2,000 seat venue can function in many different capacities, allowing for almost any kind of performance. There is a fly system which is also known as a theatrical rigging system. These are the complicated system of pulleys, gears, and ropes that allow a stage crew to fly (hoist) theater components like lighting equipment, scenery, curtains, and even actors, very quietly and safely as to not disturb the production as it is in progress. There is both a green room and dressing rooms, and the entire seating area can become a dance floor or support a standing show like a rock concert. The orchestra pit reveals the more classical side of the space.
Since its founding in 1975, the Fine Arts Center has been a central force in the cultural, social and academic life of the University, the Five College campuses, and the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts. The Fine Arts Center’s combination of educational, visual, and performing arts programs not only makes it a unique and beautiful college theater, but also helps meet the diverse needs of scholars, faculty, students, alumni, and the broader community.
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre at the University of Michigan
The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre is best described as an intimate space. Its rustic charm and almost old world character are why this sweet theater, at the heart of the University of Michigan, has made it on this list. Among the list of things the theater is used for, productions of put on by university performers, as well as musical acts by traveling acts from far and wide. The rare and straightforward technology of the “cyclorama” or curved rear wall of the theater, allows for improved acoustics in the space. It has the added effect of providing unique lighting options for performances. The solid oak panels bring a sturdy elegance, while the simple 644 red upholstered seats in the floor seats and balcony row, cradle patrons in comfort.
The opening performance of the theater was in 1929. The Chicago architectural firm called Allen Pond & Pond, Martin & Lloyd was responsible for bringing it to life. This beautiful college theater is used for theatre, musical theatre, and opera productions of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. The theater was renovated in 1962, and again in 2006.
Riley Center at Mississippi State University
The Riley Center in Meridian, Mississippi was built in the late 1800s in the Marks Rothenberg department store downtown. It was technically a Grand Opera House, getting that title from theater guidebooks of that period. It did not indicate that only operas were performed there, rather that structurally, the building had the features that would accommodate the particular needs of a classical opera. In the time it was built, many kinds of shows came through the venue, including silent movies, vaudeville, and minstrel shows. By 1927, movie theaters began taking over the public entertainment industry in the south, leaving the Grand Opera House to close its doors. Fast forward almost a century to the year 2000, when the Riley Foundation made the historic gift of $10 million to restore the building classically. It is now in the curatorial hands of the Riley Center of Mississippi State University. In its current life, it acts as the school’s conference center and performing arts space.
The Riley Center for Education & Performing Arts at Mississippi State has a mission that transcends entertainment. The center is committed to enriching the community that surrounds it. They do this by encouraging lifelong learning and exposing the people of Mississippi and West Alabama to the arts. The space is also able to enhance the reputation of Mississippi State University by increasing its offerings.
Top Musical Theater Colleges: A Link to Yesteryear
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For some of these beautiful college theaters, there is beauty in the eye of everyone looking. Prioritizing the wow factor of the art venue on campus goes far in encouraging people to show up. For older spaces, the painstaking work it takes to preserve the historical significance of a building cannot be overstated. As a student, being able to practice your craft in a gorgeous space, be it musical theater or orchestral performances, is important too. The inspiration of stained glass windows, or of curved marbled walls does not go unnoticed.
For many of the top musical theater colleges, creating a space where the community wants to bring their family for a night of folly, makes it all worth it. The best theaters feature cantilevered balconies, for the best views of the stage, and structurally curved walls that improve the sound quality in the space. These days the word theater to most people means movie theater. But for hundreds of years prior to cinema, however, the public gathered in velvet seats to watch stage performances. In fact, many of the older restored beautiful college theaters on this saw a decline in revenue when movies began making their debut in the mid-1920s. Evolving with the times meant installing a projection screen on the stage and covering up much of the original beauty of the space. The decades or more long restoration projects of these old theaters often includes undoing the movie theater alterations.